“It gave our students the opportunity to connect with the officers as well as learn a great deal about character education. We love the program and as I talk with many of the children they have been very satisfied too.”
Last Wednesday, 160 GES fifth-grade students graduated from the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, Inc. (GSA) Choosing Healthy Activity Methods Promoting Safety (CHAMPS) program.
The ceremony included certificates of appreciation for the participating students and three certificates for outstanding achievement for the winners of a CHAMPS essay contest. The winners, (first place) Lauren McKinsey Bloodworth, (second place) Corey Hunt, and (third place) Ty Downing, also received Wal-Mart gift cards.
The program was created in 2003 by the GSA at the prompting of Georgia sheriffs, for a health and safety educational program that could be taught in local schools. Its mission is to provide an educational program to youth, which will provide guidance, and the skills, ability and knowledge to be safe, healthy, and happy in preparation for a successful life. Sessions are taught by certified law enforcement officers from local sheriff’s offices that have successfully completed instructor training.
CHAMPS instructor and school resource officer Sgt. Robbie Walker said, “This was a program that Sheriff Reese wanted to implement because he really felt that we needed this in our county. It is a program designed to teach fifth-grade students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, as well as other hot topic safety issues such as ATVs and the internet. It is a program designed for safety and education. So this summer Deputy Boisey Hunt and I, who is also a school resource officer, enrolled in the class and we began teaching it this year. Gray Elementary School was the first school.”
Using a PowerPoint presentation and student workbooks, the officers met with each class once a week for a 45-minute session to learn about topics such as the danger of drugs, bullying, gangs, peer pressure, tobacco, alcohol, and the choices and consequences involved. The program also includes a pretest to determine how much the students know and a post test to see how much they have learned.
Walker stated that the PowerPoint alone could be done in 10 minutes, but lessons are designed to encourage students to share experiences and not just sit there and be talked to. They also allow the officers to interact and tell their own stories so that together they can learn from those experiences.
He thought it was an important program for the children to be involved in because being in the fifth grade a lot of students are not yet educated on these topics. The officers wanted to make the children aware before anyone else did, by someone trained who has knowledge of the topics and its dangers versus their friends.
Leslie Poythress, GES assistant principal said, “The gentlemen with the sheriff’s department have been great mentors to the children, offering them guidance and support. The children have learned a lot from it and their insight has just been incredible.”
The course is being taught in 47 Georgia counties, and is currently being taught by Walker and Hunt at Dames Ferry Elementary. They will complete their lessons for this school year at Mattie Wells Elementary and plan to hold a graduation ceremony after every school group has completed the program. Next year, the instructors will begin again with the new fifth-grade classes at each school.